Soulive organist, Neal Evans, comes fourth with a set that’s more explosive than even his solo debut title suggest. Bang takes the legendary Soulive sound to places previously unexpected, adding dramatic additions to an appreciated and tried blueprint.
Recognized textures to the Soulive formula are present, however, its normality is graciously absent as new territories of sonic euphoria are surveyed through a cinematic soundscape of soul, jazz, funk, and ankle rolling breakbeats.
The LP starts off with the cut “Lucite” – a straight-ahead soul/jazz number that’s melodically in the vein with Stax instrumentals from the 60’s. The Hammond organ, pronounced guitar licks, and rich horns are appreciable, but as an intro this track is perhaps deceiving, as there is no hint of the twists and turns that are to be heard in later tracks. Anything ordinary would soon change, however – actually, immediately – on the preceding “Adventurer.” On this song, the listener is waltzed through a composition similar to that in a score of an Italian film once beloved, but now forgotten, and to be known now only to film geeks and music buffs. The album’s first monumental moment comes by way of the breathtaking track “Crashland.” This excursion comes off like music from an intense scene of a retro Chinese action flick – save for drums. Here, timelessness is captured as this cut presents some of Neal’s most compositional “Oh my God!” moments found on the album.
The hip-hop infused track “Farewell” is like a mesh between Neal Evans and RZA, while “Shake Down” is perhaps the most enchanting straightforward soul/jazz number offered. Its change-ups, guitar licks, and Neal’s organ work are all exceptional. It is the project’s lone mellow trip (“In Your Dream”), however, that provides the listener with Bang’s greatest gem. Its alluring and haunting melody is perfectly placed amongst lush strings, sensual guitar wails, and Donald Dunn-esque bass riffs. This composition is both memorable and captivating. “High Noon” and the closer, “Afro Sheen,” are two songs that are also great, but are perhaps overshadowed by the album’s more immediate standouts (they’re both great none-the-less).
Maybe surprising even some of Soulive’s most faithful, Bang is an album gleaming on a vaulted accomplishment, taking perfected dives into a space of a god honest masterpiece. What Neal Evans captures with Bang is nothing short of marvelous.